Australia has topped my bucket list for years; and, finally, the time has come. So far, Sydney has not disappointed—from food to neighborhoods to parks and attractions—Sydney seems to have it all.
So, where to begin?
First off...you need a VISA! Before booking your trip, apply for your VISA! Neither the airlines nor the travel books highlight this clearly or loudly.
We found out at the airport...Wahoo! This was, of course, our mistake...so, learn from our stupidity and oversight.
Fortunately, we were able to login to the www.eta.immi.gov.au website for immediate confirmation. Once confirmed, the VISA is associated with your passport number so that airline employees can proceed with check-in.
If you can, consider any upgrade you can afford to bridge the 15 hour flight without being completely miserable.
Upgrading to Qantas Premium Economy/Economy Plus was completely worth the extra $400 to get a large, semi-reclining seat for this journey. Seats are spacious and window seats have a side shelf with storage for pillows, blankets, personal items. Both of us were able to sleep for 6-7 hrs; thus, allowing for basic human alertness and comprehension to work upon arrival.
Sydney is easy and simple thanks to the OPAL single-card system for trains, ferries, and buses. OPAL cards can be readily obtained at the airport before entering the terminal. The train ride to CENTRAL STATION or all the way to the CIRCULAR QUAY (waterfront) is less than 15 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively from the airport.
Of course, UBER and taxis are everywhere else and well-established...but this is cheaper and easier.
However, when not using public transit, plan to walk extensively—Sydney is not a flat city—and there is just too much to explore on foot.
Where to Stay
We used AirBnb with fantastic hosts in the SURRY HILLS neighborhood, about a 5 minute walk from the CENTRAL train station. Our one bedroom apartment was clean and spacious with all amenities, including full bath, kitchen, AC, TV, Washer & Dryer (key when traveling for a month) and free Wi-Fi. Cost: $137 +tax / night.
The neighborhood is bustling with cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops as you work your way up and down the hills of Albion, Foveaux, Riley, Crown, and Oxford streets. Sydney’s Surry Hills neighborhood contains a plethora of food options...of everything!
Note: The woman asleep under the ALIVE COFFEE sign.
Coffee shops abound. Grocery stores vary in terms of variety and specialty, but you will lack nothing!
What We Did
Day 1 / Post-Flying & Time Change
We kept this day pretty mellow catching up on sleep, wandering the shopping district and finding an Apple Store before strolling along the waterfront, Sydney Opera House, and into various parks on our way home.
Hyde Park was full of discoveries, including a monument ‘Yininmadyemi’, which at first glance looks like something the NRA would display at its headquarters, but is actually dedicated to the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander veterans who lost their lives in battle for a country during a time of inequality (sound familiar?)
Sightings of the day included Common Bushtailed Possum, Australian Magpie, Noisy Miner, Kookaburroa and Australian White Ibises.
Fatigue held our wandering in check as we wrapped up the day strolling through the Royal Botanical Gardens and admiring the New South Wales State Library interior before heading home.
Day 2 / Rosebay & Watson’s Bay
Headed up to Rosebay, part of Sydney Harbour National Park, to begin our hike along the Hermitage Foreshore Walk to Watson’s Bay. Accessible via the ferry from Circular Quay—all covered with your OPAL card.
Great views of the city and coast along with exposure to both seaside towns.
After arriving in Watson’s Bay, one can explore ongoing trails to various cliff destinations and the lighthouse for even more picteresque shots, or enjoy the small beach near the ferry terminal with a smattering of restaurants, bars, ice cream shops and convenience stores.
Food & Finds
Small unassuming cafe that we stumbled into while waiting to check in to our AirBnb. Simple menu, but well-executed dishes and meals. Hoping to return for traditional afternoon tea and/or dinner. Pastries were gorgeous. Food outstanding. Dinner looked incredible.
Empire Lounge @ Sydney Seaplanes Rosebay Terminal
Awesome and unexpected find at the Rosebay Ferry Terminal. Fresh and delicious food with beautiful views of the bay before hitting the trail. We came for breakfast, but the salad looked so delicious I couldn’t resist...delicate kale, fennel, red cabbage with chia seeds, hummus, avocado and a poached egg.
The Dolphin Hotel Bar & Restaurant
Having to wait for dinner? No worries. Along Crown Street we had plenty of hip and cool options to bide our time with Australian millenials sipping their 5 o’clock apperitifs, proseccos, and cocktails.
Flour, Eggs, Water / A Tavolo
Dinner doors open at 5:30pm. Staff is wonderful. The food was fantastic from mocktails to the freshly baked foccacia with chili dipping oil through the secret-recipe meatballs and main dishes. Menu seems to rotate regularly. Barramundi and gnocchi perfectly done!
And that's all I have for the first few days!